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Auto retailing thrives on new. New vehicles. New marketing methods and advertising campaigns. And new blood. Meet the men and women who make up the fourth annual Automotive News listing of 40 Under 40 Retail: 40 up-and-comers who already are making their mark in dealerships. These individuals are applying the lessons of the past with the techniques of today to carry vehicle retailing into the future. And they're delivering astounding results.

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Brian Lam

AGE:37
POSITION:Platform vice president for DCH Auto Group

Brian Lam is aiming high.

"I was talking to Bryan DeBoer the other day and he said, 'The sky's the limit for you,'" Lam said. DeBoer is CEO of Lithia Motors Inc., which bought DCH Auto Group in October 2014. "If I continue to perform, maybe I could be the CEO of Lithia one day. That's something to aspire to."

The auto business has flowed through Lam's blood since birth. His father, Shau-wai Lam, was president of DCH Auto Group and will join Lithia's board of directors.

"I really didn't give any other industry a thought," said Lam. "I was always a car guy. When I was a kid, I played with Matchbox cars. I had my General Lee car that I jumped over things."

He started working at the DCH dealerships at age 14, sweeping floors and washing cars. Later, while at Wheaton College in Illinois, he recalls, "People would always say I was very personable and good at my skills of persuasion and I'd make a good and natural salesperson."

Lam graduated in 2000 with a bachelor of arts in economics, and started selling new cars at DCH Brunswick Toyota in New Jersey. Within a year. he was promoted to the finance and insurance department. The following year he became the used-car manager at DCH Paramus Honda, and was named the general manager of that store in 2010. In 2013, he was promoted to his current job overseeing six dealerships on the East coast for Lithia.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing for Lam. He admits he did poorly in an early management job. But he learned a lesson.

"You can't do it yourself. You need to develop and build a good team around you to help carry the burden," Lam said. "I've focused on developing my own talents, while also developing the team and the people around me and improving their skill set."

Lam believes in promoting the people he mentors rather than going outside the company for talent.

"There's a Chinese proverb that says, 'The ginger that you grow in your own backyard is never as spicy as the ginger someone else grows in their backyard.' I find that is not true," Lam said. "You can make your ginger better, because you can choose the soil you use and how much you put into it and ultimately determine the end product."

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